Ahrendt, Sarah

Though the last six years of Rhio O’ Connor’s life may have been difficult and almost unbearable, they may have made more of an impact on thousands of people’s lives then his entire life. After being diagnosed with mesothelioma and being told he would only live to see one more Christmas, the fight and persistence he showed provides hope to anyone in his same situation. My reaction to hearing his story was simply, amazement. I realized the world is a world of extremes; some cannot find a reason to live one more day and intentionally take their last breath, while others continually fight an exhausting fight, day in and day out, to keep breathing. O’ Connor realized the beauty of life and refused that his be cut short. I found myself in amazement and jealousy at the same time. Amazed by the fight he put up and jealous of his drive to fight. 

Mesothelioma is a cancer that invades the mesotheliums of the body, which are mainly found around the heart, lungs, and abdominal for protection. (www.survivingmesothelioma.com) Like many cancers, the infected cells divide uncontrollably. Cancer in itself is dangerous and rotationally fatal, but unlike other cancers, mesothelioma has a low prognosis and many symptoms resemble other cancers. This makes it very difficult to be certain a patient has mesothelioma. This specific cancer can come from exposure to certain asbestos, found in a variety of materials. 

Trying to put myself in Rhio’s situation is very difficult. A person who has never experienced someone telling them their death date can never truly and fully understand the emotions and thoughts that follow that statement. I think my initial feeling would be to fight out of fear, fear of dying and leaving my family. As for the day to day constant fight, I could not say that I would not give up and lose hope at times. When statistics, doctors, and examiners are all telling me my chances of survival are slim, my fear is I would be convinced and forget the positive stories of survival. 

After being diagnosed with a cancer such as mesothelioma, I would ask for my labs and charts to be sent to another oncologist to get a second opinion. If they came to the same conclusions I would ask both their opinions of where to go with treatment. During treatment, I would stay in contact weekly with both to find out any recent findings or new opinions on treatments. Treatments depend on different factors of the cancer. Many people see results in one area of treatment where another person may not. Depending on things like how long I have had the cancer, how much it has spread, the location of the cancer, along with my health and age, I would make a treatment decision. If the cancer has not spread severely, I would consider surgery to remove the infected area. Though surgical procedures can be very successful, the cancer reappearing is common. Many of the survival rates reaching 5 years or more have had such success because the cancer was treated early, time can be a very important factor. 

My next choice, if the surgery could not rid the cancer completely, I would try chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is the use of drugs that attack and try to kill the cancer cells. Though it has been successful at destroying cancer cells, it also lacks the ability to recognize your own necessary body cells and attacks them as well, which can lead to many different sicknesses and pain. Some chemotherapy drugs are injected into a portion of the body and others are taken orally. I would keep a journal of my different side effects and bring them to each doctor’s appointment, so he could help me see if the chemotherapy was doing more harm than good. 

Another treatment I would ask my doctor about is radiation. Radiation mostly used along side of surgery and chemotherapy. It uses radiation rays to kill the cancer cells by targeting DNA. However, its dangers are found when it is targeting tumor cells, where it can cause a lack of oxygen making the cancerous cells more resistant to therapy. 

With all the many different therapies available, I would find real answers from people who have similar cancers and doctors who have seen multiple cancer cases. I would use the internet for finding places, but my final treatment choices would depend on my doctor’s opinions and the voices of cancer survivors. My family would play a big part in my decision making, and I would consider them in every choice I made. However, they would not be the deciding factor. I highly doubt my family would stop supporting me depending on a choice I made to fight my cancer. I would like to believe they would stand behind any decision I made during this period of time. 

Rhio O’ Connor “believed in something greater than himself”. Anyone could interpret what he believed in differently. I could pretend to know what it was he believed in but it would only be a guess. I think the main point is, he believed. I would be naïve to think that every cancer patient immediately turns to faith after being told they have a year to live. Going through therapies are physically and emotionally draining. I think O’ Connor had many moments where he did not see a light at the end of the tunnel but he was pushed by a belief in something greater than himself, something above normal, something outside of the statistics. After his perseverance and fight he gained precious time. I cannot think of a better reward than time.

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